The terpenes produced by plants help promote wellness during traditional forest bathing practices. But can you still practice forest bathing in colder fall and winter months?
While terpene science may seem like a modern innovation, people have been benefiting from terpenes for a long, long time. Yes, today we can isolate terpenes and combine them in unique ways for specific purposes. However, you can also gain exposure to the terpenes naturally produced by everyday plants simply by taking a nature walk.
This practice is known as forest bathing. The general idea is that spending time in nature helps promote wellness. Some of it is attributed to mindfulness, but a good portion comes from terpene exposure.
However, if plants are what produce these terpenes, can you still benefit from forest bathing when many of those plants are dead or dormant? Read on for all the details.
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What is Forest Bathing?
The term “Forest Bathing” originated in the 1980s from Japan. Originally called Shinrin-Yoku, the concept was that by experiencing the forest through your five senses it helped connect you back to the natural world. Considering how much time we all spend in front of a screen, it’s safe to say that we could all use a nature break.
Many forest bathing experts recommend meditations during forest bathing to promote an even deeper sense of mindfulness. Often it involves taking note of what you see, hear, smell, etc. These can be accomplished while walking or sitting, depending on your situation.
More recently, however, scientists have discovered that some of the reported benefits of forest bathing may be attributed to terpenes. In several studies, forest bathing has been shown to be effective because of the “showering of forest aerosols.” In other words, the terpenes naturally emitted from many plants have beneficial properties, and calmly walking around in the woods is a great way to get them in your system.
A 2022 study even looked at the terpene content of coniferous trees in Serbia at the Tara National Park. They wanted to develop a novel health tourism program revolving around forest therapy. The results were incredibly positive and, “The study not only adds to the knowledge in the environmental and public health realm but also to tourism and sustainability studies.”
This isn’t all that surprising considering that several other studies have illustrated that those who spend large amounts of time in nature often have stronger physical and mental health.
Can You Practice Forest Bathing in the Fall and Winter?
Yes and no.
There is definitely something to be said for an invigorating walk through the woods when the weather is brisk and the trees are bare. While the experience is different, there’s nothing stopping you from practicing all those same mindfulness techniques, letting go of your worries, and calmly spending time in nature—unless it genuinely is just too cold.
It’s important to remember, however, that it’s highly unlikely you’ll get the same exposure to terpenes in the colder months. Depending on where you live, the same plants that release terpenes in the spring and summer will be dormant in the fall and winter. Plus, terpenes are much more easily aerosolized when it’s warmer out, so colder temperatures will affect that as well.
However, if you live in an area with lots of evergreen trees (fir, pine, spruce, etc.), then those trees will likely still be green and full of terpenes. The colder temperatures will impact how effectively the terpenes aerosolize, but you’ll still get some terpene exposure…just not nearly as much.
How to Forest Bathe When You Can’t Go Outside
Whether it’s simply too cold outside or some other situation keeps you indoors, there’s still ways to practice the art of forest bathing.
If forest bathing involves using your senses to experience nature, then it’s just a matter of recreating the sensations of nature from within the comfort of your own home. The two most important senses, in this instance, being smell and sound.
The latter can easily be accomplished by listening to calming forest sounds, and the latter is just a matter of terpenes. We would never recommend putting your nose directly over a bottle of terpenes (they’re VERY concentrated), but adding your favorite woodsy terpenes or essential oils to an aromatherapy diffuser will do the trick.
You could even go so far as to admire images of nature or turn on a fan to imitate the soft forest breezes. It all depends on how thorough you want to be. Either way, simply set aside some dedicated time for your “indoor forest bathing” and practice all those same mindfulness techniques from the comfort of your own home.
Forest Bathing and Terpenes
While a calming walk through the woods has been a common practice for thousands of years, today we’re using advanced technology to understand more about the profound impact that natural compounds have on us. Obviously, we’re talking about terpenes!